Courtesy of Judy Sirota Rosenthal

On Thursday, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas announced the summer lineup for its two-week event that will run from June 14-29. 

This year’s schedule includes over 150 events, 85 percent of which are free to the New Haven public, according to their website. These events include concerts, dance performances, keynote speeches, kayak tours, cooking classes, a lecture series and even a Shakespearean circus performance that alludes to the current political environment of the United States. The events are hosted at different locations around the city however, the New Haven Green serves as the “heart” of the festival.

“There is no other place this could happen except in New Haven because of the culture, the history and the emphasis on the arts that really just bring this festival to life,” said Shelley Quiala, Executive Director of Arts and Ideas. “Arts and humanities connect us as humans together, celebrating our shared humanities and serving as a vehicle of self-expression in a world where we are so isolated.”

According to Quiala, the festival began in 1996 to connect local art to global conversations, a “spirit” that the festival has preserved as it has grown. The three women responsible for its genesis — Anne Calabresi, Jean Handley and Roslyn Meyer — aimed to showcase New Haven as “a major arts destination,” Quiala said.

To accomplish such a task, they modeled the festival after the European arts festivals including the Edinburgh Festival, which was founded in the ashes of World War II. 

The underlying goal of the festival is to interact with diverse sets of people and cultures, increasing “international understanding and social cohesion,” Quiala added.

To kick off the festival, Compagnia de’ Colombari’s King Lear will pay homage to the Juneteenth holiday. The ticketed show, curated by Artsucation and New Haven’s Official Juneteenth Coalition, will run at the University Theatre from June 14-16. 

The festival will also host the Caribbean Music Festival on June 29 at the Alexander Clark Stage on the New Haven Green. The Caribbean Music Festival will feature performances, Caribbean cuisine and booths displaying artifacts and historical facts by island representatives.

Shermaine Cooke-Edmonds, Chief Operations Officer representing Dominica, and Karaine Holness, Executive Director representing Jamaica, shared their insights into the significance of the New Haven Caribbean Heritage Festival.

“This work is vital to the New Haven community because many do not know that several Caribbean people live, work, and play in New Haven,” wrote Cooke-Edmonds and Holness. “We often hear about Hartford and Bridgeport but New Haven was being missed or skipped.”

The International Festival of Arts and Ideas will also commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20 with a free concert on the New Haven Green featuring the Ukrainian Folk Fusion quartet DakhaBrakha. The group’s name translates to “give and take” in Ukrainian, a title festival organizers said they feel fits well with their goal of producing a “trans-national sound.” 

“Overall, the festival is a fantastic way to find something new, as it brings to New Haven what otherwise might have been neglected or misunderstood,” said Katrice Kemble, Associate Director of Development of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. “By bringing all of these different forms of art together under one umbrella, we are able to celebrate diversity in a collective, community–oriented way.”

Linda Cortes, Interim Director of External Relations for the Festival, also commented on the “beauty” of the festival, saying that the shows are filled with “creativity, vibrance and compassion.”

Aside from running the two-week festival, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas also provides year-round programming to sustain their efforts on a larger scale. This year began with the Big Read Program based on the book “The Best We Could Do,” a story of a Cambodian family’s migration.  

Before the official festival begins, the organization hosts an annual series of one-day festivals in different New Haven neighborhoods in May. 

The festival’s 2024 schedule was released at the Insider Reception on March 28.

Brooklyn Brauner serves as a staff reporter for the City desk, covering Nonprofits and Social Services throughout New Haven, in addition to serving as the Thursday Newsletter Editor. Originally from Wisconsin, she is currently a sophomore in Grace Hopper College studying Political Science.